25 October 1996


25 October 1996

Press Release


19961025 Governments must demonstrate their commitment to gender equality by allocating resources to implement the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing last year, the Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian) was told this afternoon.

Addressing the Committee on the second day of its general debate on the advancement of women and the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, speakers said a gender perspective must be taken into account when the budgets of domestic programmes and policies were being decided.

Several speakers also stressed that political will alone would not ensure successful implementation. Workable national strategies and concrete international cooperation were also needed. Accessing resources was indispensable in attaining the goals of equality, development and peace reaffirmed in Beijing, according to the representative of Cuba.

The representative of China said two thirds of the world's poor were women and many developing countries lacked sufficient resources to implement gender specific programmes. Industrialized nations should achieve the official development assistance (ODA) target of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

The Republic of Korea said governments should make efforts to achieve gender balance in the composition of their delegations to the United Nations. The Organization could not serve as a vanguard for the advancement of women without the solid and demonstrated political will of each Member State.

Statements were also made by Viet Nam, Brazil, Burkina Faso, New Zealand, Burundi, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Venezuela, Colombia and Panama.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, 28 October, to continue consideration of the advancement of women and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women.

Committee Work Program

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to continue its discussions on the advancement of women and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995). (For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3365 of 24 October.)


ENNA PARK (Republic of Korea) acknowledged initial efforts to establish a framework in the United Nations system to follow up the Beijing Conference. However, in several areas the reality had fallen far short of expectations, she said. First, the approved increase in the staffing of the Division for the Advancement of Women had not been fully implemented. The second area of concern was the status of women in the Secretariat. Much more needed to be done to achieve gender parity by the year 2000. The Secretariat should be a model workplace, particularly at the decision-making levels. Third, each government should make efforts to achieve gender balance in the composition of their delegation to the United Nations. The Organization could not serve as a vanguard for the advancement of women without the solid and demonstrated political will of each Member State.

She said her Government had formulated 10 medium- to long-term policy priorities as a framework for its national plan of action. The Women's Development Act was enacted at the end of 1995 and entered into force this year. It provided a legal basis for rectifying de jure and de facto gender discrimination in all areas of society. There were also several strategies to expand the recruitment of women in public service and enterprises, including the establishment of the Women's Information Network to facilitate access to information at the grass-roots level. Her Government would give $300,000 to the Korea-Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Cooperation Fund to help eliminate illiteracy among women in the Asian region. It had also provided funding to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).

PHAM THI THANH VAN (Viet Nam) said the main importance of Beijing was that it produced a wide range of agreements, which were contained in the Platform for Action. By addressing 12 major areas of global concerns, this document had made important contributions to the issues of empowerment and advancement of women, women's reproductive health, the education and health of the girl child, violence against women, valuing women's unpaid work and women's human rights. Member States must continue to mobilize necessary material resources and political will to push further ahead -- moving beyond words to take concrete actions on gender equality issues -- and realize the pledges made in Beijing.

Third Committee - 3 - Press Release GA/SHC/3366 14th Meeting (PM) 25 October 1996

The Beijing Conference and its outcome were warmly welcomed by Vietnamese women, she said. It had been the Government's policy to accord the highest priority to the advancement of women. With determined political will, Viet Nam had done its utmost to bring equality to women and empower them in all fields. Important achievements had been obtained over the past years; however, the challenges faced were correspondingly great. The Viet Nam Women's Union had conducted activities to help women enhance their economic role and status through the implementation of credit projects and saving programmes, vocational training courses and the provision of health care.

EDGARD TELLES RIBEIRO (Brazil) said his Government had taken concrete actions to implement the provisions of the Beijing Platform for Action, including efforts to reduce poverty, combat violence, fight discrimination in labour and improve health services. As part of a national programme for preventing and combating domestic violence, draft legislation had been approved to amend the Brazilian criminal code so that sexual crimes would no longer be considered crimes against morality but crimes against the human being. Further draft legislation was being considered in other areas which affected women's rights, such as family violence. An anti-poverty programme was sponsoring credit card support policies for less advantaged members of society. The programme, which was being coordinated with the National Council of Women's Rights, took into account the specific needs of women, especially those who were heads of households.

He said priority was also being given to education and, today, female students made up 51 per cent of school and university enrolments in Brazil. A professional programme, specifically designed for women, had been approved by the Minister of Labour. Measures were being taken to ensure that school books incorporated a gender perspective. The Brazilian constitution already protected the rights of unmarried mothers, granted maternity and paternity leave, and fostered family planning. An innovative new programme, Integral Assistance to Women, also aimed to further reduce the rate of maternal mortality and early pregnancy, prevent sexually transmitted and other diseases and provide diversified access to safe contraception. Brazilian women were also increasingly participating in the executive and legislative branches of government. A new law required that at least 20 per cent of candidates in municipal elections be women. The National Council of Women's Rights had established criteria and procedures with the mayors of Brazil's main cities for the implementation of the Platform for Action.

AWA OUEDRAOGO (Burkina Faso) said the Beijing Conference was designed to remove the constraints and obstacles that had impeded women's advancement. It was important to maintain the spirit of solidarity and openness as the programme of action was fully implemented. Member States should not spend too much time on the theoretical side, rather efforts should be directed towards formulating a pragmatic approach and careful analysis. Burkina Faso had ensured the participation of women by improving their social status. A

Third Committee - 4 - Press Release GA/SHC/3366 14th Meeting (PM) 25 October 1996

national committee to follow up the Beijing Conference was established and it had adopted a national plan of action for the advancement and empowerment of women and respect for their fundamental rights.

Trafficking and sexual exploitation were the most serious threats to the well-being of women and girls and should be eradicated with decisive action, she said. It was an open sore that morally and culturally ate away at societies. This evil must be rooted out and its causes identified, and then, with the involvement of civil society, a search for solutions could begin. Studies should be undertaken to obtain reliable base data on the breadth and characteristics of violence against female migrant workers, as well as the effects of the violence on women, their families and their communities, she added.

MARIA DE LOS ANGELES FLOREZ PRIDA (Cuba) said it was inconceivable that 25 per cent of the globe's population, especially women, continued to live below the poverty line. In the developing countries in particular, war was accompanied by the torment of foreign debt, neo-liberal adjustment programmes, and the application of coercion. Accessing resources was an indispensable premise in attaining the goals of equality, development and peace reaffirmed in Beijing. Universal ratification of the Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination against Women now appeared realisable.

She supported activity towards the integration of the perspective of gender, an element laid down in the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women. Cuba believed in allocating additional resources to the efforts towards women's equality and advancement. In July, a national seminar on "Cuban Women from Beijing to the year 2000" was held, and a national plan of action aimed at reaffirming and consolidating the current and future role of women in Cuban society was outlined. Reflecting the ongoing transformation, she said, was that women were now 22.8 per cent of Parliament, 41.7 per cent of scientific researchers, 61.9 per cent of higher-level technicians and professionals, 58.3 per cent of college students and 40.6 per cent of the labour force. She pointed out that the Committee on the Elimination of Violence against Women, in its fifteenth session this year, took note of the negative impact of the economic, financial and trade blockade of the United States on Cuba, which had affected programmes aimed at further enhancing the place of women.

ZHANG FENGKUN (China) said the international community must honour their Beijing commitments by translating them into concrete action. Only when plans and programmes had been successfully carried out would there be tangible results in improving the status of women. As two thirds of the world's poor were women, urgent action was needed to eradicate poverty. Many developing countries were suffering from a serious shortage of material and financial resources and industrialized nations should achieve the official development assistance (ODA) target of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). The

Third Committee - 5 - Press Release GA/SHC/3366 14th Meeting (PM) 25 October 1996

United Nations must increase its human and financial resources to programmes which advanced the status of women. All that really meant was allocating a slightly "larger slice of the cake". Too often, the excuse "within existing resources" was used when determining those programmes' budget allocations when, in fact, funding for non-priority programmes was increasing.

He said China was initiating programmes to improve cultural and technical training for 10 million poor women and implement women-dominant programmes to help the poor enhance their standard of living, and to increase women's participation in management and decision-making in social and state affairs. In 640 cities, 370 women had been elected mayor or vice-mayor, and there were 18 ministers and vice-ministers in national government. More could be done to increase the numbers of women in government posts. The Government was making special efforts to raise the percentages of women at all educational levels and discourage the rate of "drop-outs" among girls. It was also working to improve the delivery of health care and reproductive services to women in rural and urban areas and curb violence against women.

FELICITY WONG (New Zealand) noted that the global community had yet to achieve the equality of men and women outlined in the Charter. It was not, however, that women had been ignored. More international conferences in recent years had dealt with the subject than any other; Beijing had resulted in a strategic plan for women's empowerment. "We must turn the words of Beijing into reality if the agenda for women's empowerment is to be fulfilled", she said. One of the challenges was to find new ways to harness the enthusiasm of the non-governmental organizations which were critical to the implementation of the Platform for Action. This year, New Zealand non- governmental organizations had held consultations in 21 centres to familiarize women with the Platform and to identify priority areas. Their report would be used by the Government in developing its implementation strategy. A key part would be the mainstreaming of gender analysis in public policies and programmes.

It was important that a gender perspective be maintained in the work of the United Nations, and it was important that parts of the Secretariat, especially the Division for the Advancement of Women, be given adequate resources, and appointments promptly filled. She was concerned at the difficult circumstances under which the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was working. It was underresourced, and its level of efficiency needed improvement. She urged those who had not done so to accept the amendment to its Convention to enable the Committee to extend its meeting time.

Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General on the "Improvement of the status of women in the Secretariat", she expressed pleasure that the target of 35 per cent participation rate of women had been achieved. She was concerned, however, that the 50/50 gender distribution by the year 2000 -- reaffirmed at

Third Committee - 6 - Press Release GA/SHC/3366 14th Meeting (PM) 25 October 1996

Beijing -- may not be achieved. Rejecting the suggestion in the report that the goals set by the General Assembly regarding improvement in the status of women should be revised, she urged the Secretariat to redouble its efforts, especially with regard to the numbers of women at the D-1 level and above.

SUTJIPTOHARDJO DONOKUSUMO (Indonesia) said Indonesia was concerned that the ongoing financial crisis at the United Nations threatened to impair implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. While current budgeted staffing was sufficient, any further reduction in current levels was a risk to full implementation. If Member States were serious in their concern to end discrimination and uphold a basic human right for over half the world's population, then they must ensure that sufficient levels of funding were available to effectively follow through on the agreements reached at Beijing.

Poverty was one of the most serious problems affecting women and preventing them from attaining equality, he said. Therefore, the alleviation of poverty and the promotion beneficial to women, in the context of development, were foremost in Indonesia's national implementation plans. To address the serious issue of violence against women migrant workers, the Government had also adopted general policy guidelines to guarantee the protection of Indonesia's overseas workers and to eliminate unregistered agencies and illegal intermediaries.

BALTHAZAR HABONIMANA (Burundi) welcomed the steps already taken by the international community to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. Inspired by the Beijing Platform for Action, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Council of Ministers recently adopted a measure that endorsed strengthening the role of the African woman. The OAU pledged to integrate women's concerns into programmes to eradicate poverty and to fully integrate women into development programmes. The Ministers also adopted strategies to curb the tendency of women to fall into poverty, provide women with total and equal access to economic tools, promote women in the decision- making process and include women's concerns in economic and social directives and policies. They also pledged to increase the participation of women in settlement of conflicts and to protect them in the situation of armed conflicts.

Despite certain beliefs regarding women as inferior to men, which were linked to negative portrayals of Burundi's culture, there were no barriers to women succeeding in various fields in society, he said. There had been a major effort to promote and emancipate women. The girl child attended school at the same level as boys, and an outreach programme made it possible to resolve problems related to inheritance and landowning.

The crisis in Burundi since 1993 had affected almost all of the Government's development programmes, he said. Children and women, which comprised a majority of the population, had paid the highest price in this

Third Committee - 7 - Press Release GA/SHC/3366 14th Meeting (PM) 25 October 1996

human tragedy. Many women had become widows and others had to take charge of the children of families of relations and friends. The climate of insecurity and fear and shortages of food, health care, shelter and clothing have had a serious effect on the physical and mental health of women. The Government thanked the entire international community for their assistance, especially the United Nations and its agencies.

FOO CHI HSIA (Singapore) said her Government had serious substantive and procedural reservations on the Secretary-General's report on violence against women migrant workers, issued by the Division for the Advancement of Women. She described it as "extremely controversial and an obstacle to consensus". She hoped the text of this year's resolution would not significantly depart from resolution 50/168 which had represented a balance between various points of view. The key question was, if at all, this year's resolution would be cognizant of the report and what weight, if any, should be given to recommendations of the expert group meeting, as outlined in the report, without disrupting that precarious balance. The expert group meeting was mandated to "develop concrete indicators for determining the situation of women migrant workers". However, the report had adopted a "skewed and narrowly selective interpretation" of that specific mandate. By suggesting that indicators for only one negative aspect of a complex situation could be the "starting point for work", the report had distorted the letter and intent of its mandate.

Singapore certainly deplored violence against anybody, she continued. However, the situation of women migrant workers must be viewed in the context of positive economic and other benefits they enjoyed from working abroad. Focusing solely on negative factors did not explain the large outflow of migrant workers of both sexes from sending countries. The report's claim that there was "wide acceptance" for the issue to be put on the global agenda was clearly a misrepresentation of a complex reality. Only seven States had ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The only current practical way to address the problems was through the national legal and administrative frameworks of the receiving countries. The report's recommendations were extremely intrusive and placed the main emphasis on the obligations of receiving countries, glossing over the duties and responsibilities of sending countries to reduce the flow of workers.

She said Singapore had an excellent record of protecting all workers whether foreign or citizens, men or women. It was a relatively safe, crime free, transparent, free and accountable society. There were 80,000 foreign domestic workers in Singapore and in the last five years only 14 employers had been convicted of abusing foreign workers. Employers convicted of abuse were liable to heavy sentences, and they and their spouses were permanently barred from hiring foreign workers.

Third Committee - 8 - Press Release GA/SHC/3366 14th Meeting (PM) 25 October 1996

BHARATI SILWAL (Nepal) said that providing women, who live in the rural areas of developing nations, with easy access to credit and offering employment in small businesses could be the basic issue for their advancement. Women living in rural areas of developing nations were the most disadvantaged. Even in more developed countries, there appeared to be a wide gap in the living conditions of women between rural and urban areas.

She said that the mass media could play a crucial role in the promotion of women's human rights and development by avoiding the stereotyping of women in the traditional roles of mother, sister, wife. Women, themselves, should be given a larger role in creating the image of women in the media as leaders of society and the nation at large.

Nepal has been in the process of formulating the Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2002), one that incorporates the basic guidelines in the Platform for Action, she said. Nepal had placed emphasis on the education of the girl child which it believed was the only way for women to realize long-term advancement in all spheres of society. Women presently accounted for nearly three quarters of all illiterates in Nepal.

W. HETTIARACHCHI (Sri Lanka) said the problem of the trafficking in women and girls was a growing international concern. Women from developing countries had been particularly vulnerable to the forms of trafficking which were ostensibly for the purposes of overseas employment. Such trafficking had international criminal dimensions and required response strategies and new forms of cooperation between States and international organizations. Practical approaches were required by the international community to assist women victims of transnational trafficking under the guise of possible migrant worker employment, and resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights, as well as the General Assembly, should include reference to this kind of trafficking.

The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the United Nations Special Rapporteur's mandate on Violence against Women were important international mechanisms to monitor and address the constraints faced by women migrant workers, he said. There were about 500,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers employed in various countries in the world, and nearly 80 per cent were women. They faced constraints and hardships, including the lack of proper service contracts, non-payment of wages, sexual harassment and unavailability of insurance and social security. Member States needed to conduct regular consultations to promote and protect the internationally accepted rights of those migrant workers, and national and international awareness should be encouraged. The Government hoped that countries lacking in national standards that addressed the needs of migrant workers would soon formulate such legislation.

Third Committee - 9 - Press Release GA/SHC/3366 14th Meeting (PM) 25 October 1996

SELMA ACUNER (Turkey) said that there was a need for more research on women migrant workers that focused on additional reasons for their migration. Violence and vulnerability were important indicators in this research but others such as natural or human-made disasters should also be included in the data.

She said that there was a need to analyse the implementation of the various plans for women's advancement in a more comprehensive manner. A document that analysed the various plans of the entire United Nations system would enable better evaluation and monitoring. It would be useful to have charts outlining specific activities and outputs required by each organization.

Turkey had pursued a policy of active participation of women in all aspects of the country's development process, she said. The State Ministry for Women Affairs and the women's movement in Turkey had been working to speed up the withdrawal of all reservations made upon the ratification of the Convention at the Fourth World Conference on Women.

LYDA APONTE DE ZACKLIN (Venezuela) said her Government supported the proposal for the Commission on the Status of Women to have two annual sessions in order to review the reports of States parties. Venezuela had been a leader in implementing laws to deal with the problem of violence against women. Its legal code included severe sanctions and penalties for those guilty of that crime. It supported the Secretary-General's efforts to increase the numbers of women working at all levels of the Secretariat. Despite the United Nations financial crisis, the principle of gender parity must be observed, if the Organization was to remain in the vanguard of promoting the advancement of women.

Despite its own economic crisis, the Venezuelan Government had strengthened its National Council on Women to improve the status of women, she continued. It had a new labour law which promoted equal opportunities for women in work without differentiation in salaries, and also included work- related protection for women such as maternity leave and female migrant workers. Committees, workshops and seminars had been held to produce immediate plans for job training. At the political level, there had been workshops for women and exchange programmes with Chinese women. There was also draft legislation on laws against family violence and sexual harassment. A series of government programmes in the follow-up to Beijing would focus on numerous issues such as violence against women, health concerns, education and the portrayal of women in the media.

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal) said international and national provisions had been taken to follow up the recommendations of recent world meetings. During the Economic and Social Council 1996 special session on the eradication of poverty, the Committee recognized that it needed to mainstream a gender

Third Committee - 10 - Press Release GA/SHC/3366 14th Meeting (PM) 25 October 1996

perspective in any strategy to eradicate poverty. To achieve the targets identified at Beijing, it was essential to involve regional organizations, and it was heartening that United Nations regional organizations had organized meetings and drawn up measures.

In Africa, he said, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) had published and distributed a guide for implementing the Beijing Platform for Action. The guide noted that the mainstreaming of a gender perspective was the most effective strategy. An enhanced role for women in decision-making would henceforth be a focus of African leaders in the upcoming years. Education, health care, poverty eradication, financing for projects for women were aspects of Senegal's mid-term plan for women for the period 1997-2001. The plan's purpose was to provide a global, consensus framework to ensure greater gender equality in sustainable development. The Government wanted to pay a well-deserved tribute to non-governmental organizations, especially in Africa, for working to make women more fully aware of their rights and their part in the development of societies.

ALEJANDO BORDA (Colombia) said his country had participated in the Beijing Conference, and the Government and other sectors of society had taken action in accordance with the Platform for Action to promote the advancement of women. In the governmental sector, the National Bureau on the Equality of Women was working to develop a two-year plan with priorities on education, health care, justice and rural development, without neglecting actions in other areas. The plan's objectives included the elimination of structural barriers to the advancement of women, the promotion of respect for women's human rights and for humanitarian law during times of war and widespread violence and the elimination of violence against women. Strategies had been designed at the local level with the help of women's organizations in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the programmes.

At the local level, the National Bureau was cooperating with mayors and other politicians to strengthen the offices in charge of women's issues and affairs, he said. The emphasis that had been placed on those efforts, their effectiveness and the number of women that would benefit from them would be determined by the amount of resources available. Therefore, it was vital that the international community increase the amount of resources available for the implementation of the Platform for Action at the national level.

MARY MORGAN-MOSS (Panama) said the Assembly and the Committee had a very important role to play in helping governments implement follow-up to the Beijing Conference. Panama had noted that in many events, forums and seminars which dealt with women's problems, Panamanian society had been very receptive to the agreements reached in Beijing. The Conference was generally considered a milestone. Her Government had expressed to the Secretary-General its support of an optional protocol to ensure the effectiveness of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and it

Third Committee - 11 - Press Release GA/SHC/3366 14th Meeting (PM) 25 October 1996

considered the optional protocol essential to the implementation of the commitments made at Vienna in 1993 and Beijing in 1995. She hoped the text of such a protocol would be negotiated and adopted in the very near future.

She said women's participation in Panama's national debates had helped Panama to determine the way society would deal with the challenges of the next century. Government bodies had been strengthened to deal more effectively with marginalized groups such as disabled women and indigenous women, as well as women at large. Beijing had raised aspirations that there would be solidarity, cooperation and understanding of problems which would produce mutual assistance and displays of generosity. Her Government was fully supportive of the Commission on the Status of Women and its follow up to the Beijing Conference. She noted the importance of regional preparatory conferences and hoped use would be made of them in evaluating national plans. The comparative advantages among institutions which carried out follow-up was very important and must be recognized -- notably the work of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Inter-American Bank for Development and other organizations which come under the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Increased dialogue between countries of the North and South could be invaluable, she added.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.